PBL: Debrief

What do you now understand best about Project Based Learning? What do you understand least?

Throughout this process, I have learned a lot about PBL. This was my first experience creating a PBL unit. Prior to this I had read and heard a lot about the concept, but I had never tested out the process by actually creating a project myself. Upon completion of a unit from start to finish, I would say I understand the development and components well. It all seems to flow nicely from one component to the next. Each aspect seemed necessary and relevant. I would venture to say creating the project assessments were the most time consuming, but also essential to do upfront or order to create and understand the focus and direction of the project more completely.

I have never implemented a project, thus I would venture to say that I understand project implementation the least. Unfortunately in my current position, as a technology instructional coach, I will not be able to implement my project with fidelity with a class of 1st graders.

What did you expect to learn in this course? What did you actually learn? More, less, and why?

When registering for this course I expected to study multiple examples of PBL and review case studies for usage. I was pleasantly surprised that we were able to take a project from start to finish. The BIE resource is so helpful and I appreciated working with their templates and materials and will definitely reference this moving forward. I learned that PBL projects do not have to be scary, but it is a mindset whereas the classroom teacher understands learning can happen even when they themselves are not in the front of the room as the center of instruction. I learned that PBL projects grow and change and can be altered within the design process and even during implementation. I learned that some of the greatest skills students will get from PBL are learning to work collaboratively within a team.

What will you do with what you have learned?

Moving forward I hope to help introduce this concept and way of teaching to other educators. As a technology instructional coach, I don’t see myself using PBL units with a group of students, but rather helping other teachers develop their own units for usage.

Final PBL Project: Discovering Flight


ID: Learning Outcomes

When reading this statement, reflect on the Instructivist and Constructivist.   Do you see a connection between the two learning outcomes?  Illustrate your position by using an instructional experience and an understanding of Bloom’s.

Instructivist theory is the idea that students will learn through direct instruction approaches and constructivist hinges on students learning through discovery. It is important that teachers do not decide to pick one or the other exclusively, but rather approach teaching from the lens of a responsive pendulum. The video in the presentation really challenged teachers to go beyond one vs. the other but to utilize both theories (along with connectivism) to support individual learners where they are and move them forward.

The best teachers are those that model or scaffold through discovery moments when deemed appropriate and only for the students who need that support. This is discovered by the teacher through continually gathering formative feedback. It is important that students participate in constructing their own learning so that they can make connections and create meaning, but the teacher doesn’t have to leave the room for this to happen. The teacher can still play a pivotal role for students who need guidance in this process.

I recently was observing a teacher deliver a whole group mini lesson. She quickly determined through a formative poll that many students were ready to explore or practice on their own. She quickly changed her plan and separated students so that some were working on creating Educreation videos to teach others the concept. Another group took a sentence stem handout to work through the problem, and she invited another 7-10 students to remain on the carpet to continue working through the mini-lesson. Even then students were “released” from the mini lesson at different times as they gained the confidence needed to construct meaning around making tens. This teacher had students working within differing Blooms levels, after realizing every student did not need direct instruction. Did I mention this was a first-grade classroom with 32 students?

Larson and Lockee state “‘Changing workforce needs in the 21st-century demand that instruction and assessments build learner abilities such as expert thinking and complex communications, defined by Willis as ‘recognizing and organizing patterns and relationships and identifying and solving new problems as they arise.'” Explain why you agree or disagree with this statement. How should this impact the assessments we create?  

I agree with Willis’ (2006) statement as Larson and Lockee point out the changing landscape for learners today. There is so much access to technologies and information learners need to understand how to access in order to solve problems and redefine our understandings. It isn’t enough to simply memorize and regurgitate, as access to information is immediate.  I appreciated the comic at the beginning of chapter 7, that suggests people wouldn’t be happy allowing someone to give them a shot if they have never practiced actually doing this before. Getting an A on the test wouldn’t cut it as a learning assessment for this learning outcome. It also was pointed out that a multiple choice exam can highlight if a student can recall or can recognize – and recognition is sometimes the key necessity to follow-up application.

It is important that educators take care to also develop alternative assessments to foster assessment for and assessment as learning. For learners to grow to be capable of supporting and enhancing the 21st-Century workforce they need experiences authentically showcasing their understanding of learning outcomes throughout their educational career. The ability to respond to open-ended questions, produce a concept map or successfully navigate a performance assessment asks a student to exist on a higher level of skills.

Explain a lesson from your class and the levels of interactions within that lesson. Are there some interactions that are more essential or more important than other interactions? Explain what makes the difference. How did these interactions change the instructional strategies you chose? Be sure to discuss learner-to-content/instructor/context/learner/self.  

Recently I was working with a 1st-grade class that had to write letters based on books they had read. The letters were written for a kindergarten class to help them learn the lessons from the books that the 1st-grades had learned. The Learner-to-Context interaction had the 1st-grades interpreting the morals of stories and describing them in ways younger learners could then understand them.  The Learner-to-Instructor interaction came in the form of the teacher asking probing questions to help the 1st-grade writer determine if they had included enough detail for their future kindergarten audience. The Learner-to-Context interaction was well thought out in this classroom. Students work at small table groups but are encouraged to keep voices down during conferencing to minimize distractions. When peers are conferencing they sometimes go to the reading corner or other areas to allow students who are still writing to continue unphased. The Learner-to-Learner interactions come as discussion and peer conferencing. The Learner-to-Self interaction was highlighted in the form of a self-reflective rubric. Students were asked to make sure that their letter contained certain elements and the rubric was used by students to self-evaluate.

In this example all of the learner interactions were important. That by itself caused the teacher to create procedures and methods for students to write, conference, peer conference and self-evaluate. I have seen this teacher incorporate student friendly rubrics this year in an effort to support learner-to-self interactions as it was determined that some students needed assistance and scaffolding to become more self-aware and reflective.

Different pedagogical approaches use different planning processes to address content and learning experiences. Which of the five strategy frameworks have you used to develop the type of learning outcomes you have identified in one of your lessons or assignments?

Prior to this course, the only strategy framework that was somewhat familiar to me and my work was Gagne’s Nine Events, and even now I have a much better handle on it. However, Keller’s ARCS Motivation Model has really stood out to me as something I want to keep in the forefront when I plan. As a technology instructional coach, I am asked to take data throughout my cycle with a teacher to show student growth over time with relationship to our coaching goal. Many times the goal hinges on student engagement and time on task. The ARCS model alone or even in conjunction with other models fits this goal so well. What better way to increase engagement and time on task than with planned increases in confidence, motivation, relevance and attention-getting strategies.

Case study 06 was about K-12. Case study 08 discussed higher education. Case study 23 focused on the private sector. Which one did you most identify with and why? 

I definitely identified most with Case Study 6, due to the K-12 content. Not to say that Case Study 8 wasn’t interesting, I am always facisnated by people who do not work in a school setting all day! Learning about the main character who got a masters in instructional design reminded me that I wasn’t even aware of this position a few short weeks ago,  however, I digress.

I found Case 6 interesting as our school is newly rolling out some new technologies due to a Summer renovation. We are adding an additional wing this upcoming fall and we again will be funded for technologies within there buildings thanks to student/teacher success, and my coaching trackers. It it is happy to see that technology and the role of the technology instructional coach is being valued and having a positive affect at my site. If only this could happen everywhere.

ID: Analyzing the Context of Instruction

1. Describe an instructional design scenario in which Gagne’s “Conditions of Learning” are applicable.
As an instructional design theorist, Robert Gagné, theorized that there were five major groups or categories of learning in his book “Conditions of Learning”. These categories are intellectual skills, cognitive skills, verbal information skills, motor skills and attitude. While Gagné developed instructional design theory for learning and planning he emphasized the need for design to be created and altered to fit particular learners needs. While there was another set of “conditions of learning” in the group’s Youtube clip, I am going to focus on Gagné’s five categories of learning for this response. I would bring up project-based learning as an example where these categories of learning may be applicable. Perhaps students are tasked with designing a toy after researching and studying what makes a good product and invention. Students would have to use motor skills and have an excellent attitude both to collaborate and sell their product.
2. Within cultural context, the text describes the impact of danger of “ethnocentric design”.  Consider a scenario where ethnocentric design has been illustrated in the design of instruction, and discuss opportunities to learn, inform, and remedy the design process.
At my school site, we have what are called Academic Parent Teacher Team meetings. They happen about four times each school year with the classroom teacher and parents coming together for about 75 minutes to focus on skills, goals and action steps as a way to support classroom learning at home. Some teachers have varied success as far as attendance and overall parent satisfaction with the approach. With feedback and thoughtful reflectiveness, we as a staff, are continuing to work hard to eliminate ethnocentric design for our APTT meetings. Teachers have had to work hard to develop their sessions in a way to support all families. We now offer all the sessions and all materials in Spanish and English. Teachers have been placing QR codes on materials so that students and parents can access the text after the session, no matter their literacy level. Icebreakers are developed to be safe and fun and not to put any one parent on the spot. Coteachers circulate during the evening to assist parents and teachers no longer expect parents to ask questions in front of the whole group. Teachers have worked hard to describe student assessments without teacher jargon so that parents can understand how to support the learning goals of the grade level. Attendance has continued to grow as teachers take into account the needs of parents in our community.
3. In what ways do the elements of KASI- Knowledge, Attitudes, Skills, and Interpersonal Skills, help you shape the way you design instruction?
In the Larson and Lockee text, I found it helpful to think of KASI as an example of a “know/do/be framework”. This can be used to help develop design to focus and streamline required skills. At times this even allows the designer to group together common elements that can be taught and linked together for students to make connections. By focusing on knowledge, attitudes, skills and interpersonal skills a designer can hone in on “need to know” vs “nice to know”. As I recently developed a training for staff on using the SMARTboard as a center, it was important to target teachers’ existing knowledge of procedures and rules and attitudes towards the helpfulness of these. This helped to get teachers in the right mindset to create their SMARTboard center procedures. And learn how to grow this into their current practice. Of course I could have taught them all things SMART software related, but this wasn’t the focus of the session. As far as interpersonal skills I try to build in time for teachers to discuss/share and reflect on current practice and new skills as they begin to use them in their own classrooms.
4. Describe a situation in your experience where cultural understanding played a positive role in designing instruction or describe a situation where cultural understanding could have avoided a failure in instructional design.
As I have shared,  I work at a bilingual school (Spanish/English). To foster and keep this dual language model alive we employee and maintain many bilingual teachers. We work closely with some programs around the world to help bring teachers from Spanish-speaking countries into our school as needed. We have teachers from Latin America, Spain and the US. This plays a major role in planning professional development for our staff. It is important to understand the role of lesson planning, assessment and feedback in other countries as we work to grow our teachers. Often times our international teachers will have a hard time with the teacher evaluation process at our site, it is so different for them. We have worked to help them understand these differences through videos of best practices, exemplars, coteaching models and scheduling observations to see other teachers. As a coach and designer, I work hard to design instruction for this group of staff that will help highlight differences in the American educational system and ways to support them as they figure it all out.


Larson, M., & Lockee, B. (2013). Streamlined ID: A practical guide to instructional design (pp.269-270). New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

ID: Prepare for Success

1. Analyze a learning context where initial needs assessment might be tricky. Is the performance gap clear? Is the reason for the gap related to instruction, knowledge and/or skills. Are there other factors that might need to be addressed before determining whether or not there is an instructional need?

At my site, we have a math blended learning program that all teachers are expected to use with their students twice weekly for a total of 90 minutes. The time is scheduled into the master schedule and is protected in terms of lab/mobile lab check out. Students are expected to master 3% of the content each week to be “ready” for standards-based assessments come this Spring. However, each year consistently Kindergarten and 5th meet this goal, while all other grades fall short. As a leadership team, we have strategized a lot about this issue. We have laid out expectations for teachers to facilitate and question students during this time. We have shared research and data findings with staff as to the track-record with this program. We have required that staff complete the online training to better facilitate this program. Coaching has been offered to teachers who struggle using the program with their students. I don’t think that there is an instructional need. I know that teachers have trained in the program, they feel that with so many other things on their plate, the time students are using the blended learning program is a time teachers can do things they normally have no time for. Often times I see teachers testing students (one-on-one testing for reading levels), answering emails, or grading papers. None of these are a bad use of time as they all need to happen. I don’t think there is an instructional need for teachers to learn the program, they have done this. I think teachers know how to use and facilitate the program, however, time and time management gets in the way. I think it would be powerful for admin to speak with teachers about their belief in the program, but also open up a dialogue for less scheduled meeting time so teachers can focus on their class and help them grow even during blended learning moments.

2. Compare a situation where instructional materials seem to meet the needs of the learners with one where they do not.  Are there clues that needs analysis is/is not part of the design? Do the materials provide formative assessment?

I will use an example from the ID Casebook as an example of instructional materials not meeting learners needs. In case 28, Natalie is tasked with  with presenting solutions to a broken manufacturing training program. The current system is so entirely lacking in structure that trainers aren’t holding trainees to the same standards. While formative assessments were thought to be in place, it is evident, as Natalie interviews managers and trainers that not everyone is upholding standards or even understands their importance. It is evident that a needs analysis had not been completed as the current “program” is flawed in many ways. The most glaring lack of analysis was that non-native English speaking trainees can only advance in certain areas if they speak Vietnamese or Spanish, as these are the languages spoken by the trainers. I am confident that this, along with all of the other obvious problems, will be resolved as Natalie was brought in as a consultant to develop an instructional design.

An example of instructional goals and materials meeting the needs of the learners can be taken from a recent PD at my site. We brought in a trainer for eduCanon (PlayPosit), as our district recently purchased licenses. I was able to pre-conference with the trainer to give her background about our teachers, our students and best fits or needs for the integrative video tool. I was able to meet with teachers to understand their needs and hopes for the program if they were to attend the PD. Overwhelming and not surprisingly, ahem Adult Learning Theory, teachers wanted to walk away with usable products they could implement later that same week. I also prepped the trainer to come with supports that program had for audio and visuals for our kinder teachers so they weren’t turned off by the program. Needless to say, the pre-work paid off. Teachers came with video links they were ready to manipulate and they were trained to work with their own content in a very real and usable way.  Formative assessments were used throughout the process as checks for teacher understanding were put into place. I am happy to report, from the admin dashboard, all teachers in attendance have gone on to create and implement – with students – additional video resources.

3. Describe  an instructional situation in which there are elements of behaviorism, cognitivism or constructivism in the instructional design or delivery.

As I work in a bilingual (Spanish/English model) school, while reflecting, I realized I am able to bring all three learning theories into focus. A major goal of our dual language program is bilingualism but also biliteracy, with this lens a lot of work needs to be done for students to reach this level of proficiency.  Behaviorism practices  can be seen in flashcard work or centers activities as student work with sight words, letters, and syllables. Teachers will prepare interactive sorts for the whiteboard that give positive feedback for correct input. An example of cognitivism is witnessed as students are charting and discussing cognates and false cognates as a connection for themselves between the languages. And constructivism can be experienced as students present their final PBL projects in both English and Spanish at unit’s end.

4. Explain how the emphasis of one or more of these theoretical approaches may impact learning.

It is important that designers and teachers understand these different theoretical approaches so that they are intentional in their lesson design and implementation. There is a time and place for behaviorism, as I think to our young student who need to practice and understand letters, letters sounds, and print concepts. These reading behaviors need to be practiced and mastered so that meaning can be applied as they attempt to participate in higher level thinking activities. These foundational skills are so important, but if learning continued in this way for everything, meaning and connections for that learner would never develop. The real “meat” to knowledge and learning comes with the connection building and meaning creation through higher level processes. The teacher or designer must embed these intentionally for a student to find joy and power in their learning. Again gravitating toward younger students, while a child may still be practicing their letters and sight words, this doesn’t mean they cannot participate in a book discussion or sequencing activity. It is important designers utilize all theories to best support their learners based on the goal or objective.

PBL Research

I enjoyed looking at different PBL projects for the elementary level. I focused my research on both ELA and math projects at this level because I work as a coach in an elementary school. I was amazed at how easy it was to search for projects within the BIE website. This was a seamless process. I appreciated that you could filter by standard and subject area.
During my research, it was evident that many projects had similar components and common features. It was evident just in the set up (website) used that the teachers spent a lot of time planning and developing their PBL. There was a driving question that led the problem as well as standards and target objective throughout. Many PBL’s contained rubrics for teacher and student assessments for tasks or deliverables. I also noticed many of the samples I looked at had Steps to Completion with hyperlinked resources but then also an additional resource section as well.
I found one-second grade PBL project titled, “Honey, Where are my bees?” That seemed so engaging for students. I was impressed by the driving question and the critical thinking and rigor this would invoke for such young students. The students were investigating the decline of honey bees and how this would impact their community. I appreciated that this was a real issue but that the class would be focusing locally. The teacher planned to bring in guest experts and students would do small group research. I liked that the plan included options for student presentation and that a real authentic audience would be utilized at the culmination of the project.

Starting my PBL Adventure

What is Project Based Learning?

What considerations are important when incorporating a Project Based Learning approach into the classroom?

As educators “jump” into the realm of PBL, this movement itself can lead to pitfalls if tips are not gleaned from veteran PBL educators. Novice PBL teachers will run into issues if they attempt to incorporate PBL as an alternative to all instruction, fail to enforce deadlines or start off with long-term projects rather than a shorter less complex introductory projects (Mergendoller & Thomas, 2005).

A successful PBL project can be defined by the beneficial learning experience created and maintained by all stakeholders.  Research has discovered that successful projects do not happen by mistake, in fact, success hinges on a teachers foresight or willingness to admit missteps and address these with the class mid-project as needed (Mergendoller & Thomas, 2005). As a classroom teacher, I found students responded well when an adult admitted mistakes during a class meeting and invited a classroom culture shift or, in this case, project shift. It is important that a teacher not feel paralyzed by an unsuccessful process and feel empowered to right the misconceptions or correct the now detrimental project process within their own class in real-time.

Another facet to a successful PBL project is for a teacher to manage student engagement and offer opportunities for students to express learning throughout the process (Ertmer & Simons, 2005). This feeds into the types of students that will be successful in PBL environments. These would be students who are exposed to collaborative learning environments and problem-solving opportunities more often. I would argue that all types of students can be successful with teachers who serve as inquiry facilitators. Increased exposure to these types of learning opportunities will create students who are better able to communicate and not only work alongside peers but understand the benefits of collaboration and seek it out.

Feel free to learn alongside me as I work to better my understanding of PBL in the classroom. Check out this great resource: BIE.org


Ertmer, P. A., & Simons, K. D. (2005). Scaffolding teachers’ efforts to implement problem-based learning. International Journal of Learning, 12(4), 319-328. Retrieved from http://www.edci.purdue.edu/ertmer/docs/Ertmer-LC05.pdf

Mergendoller, J. R., & Thomas, J. W. (2005). Managing project-based learning: Principles from the field (PDF). Retrieved from http://bie.org/images/uploads/general/f6d0b4a5d9e37c0e0317acb7942d27b0.pdf

EdTech 501 – Final Reflection


Self-ReflectionWhat challenges did you face in this course?

The major challenge that surround this course, and all summer courses, would have to be time – mostly lack of time. The experiences and assignments are so rich and full that each week was jammed pack with learning experiences, readings, and assignments. This wasn’t a surprise to me, I understood this course to be a shorter version of the typical semester-long course. I appreciate that as a summer course, we didn’t lose out on any content. It was condensed but still held true to the course goals and learning experiences. Fortunately, I was off this summer as my position is a traditional 10-month teacher schedule. This allowed me to focus many, many hours on this course and a second one I was also taking this summer.

What strategies or other creative resources did you use to address these challenges?

To deal with the problem of time, both lack of and shortened, I worked on these courses like I would a job. I scheduled in times I would be working and separated myself from distractions. I also took our instructors advice and tailored the assignment artifacts toward my job and interests. I could learn for this course while creating something I will be using at school in the Fall, accomplishing a task for both areas of my life felt very productive.

While traveling this summer – by plane, train and automobile – I made sure to have resources ready for offline use as well. I used Google Drive offline while flying and on a train overnight. It was important to plan ahead to make sure you had access at hotels or coffee shops as well. I definitely read our course chapters on the DC Metro.

I used Google Scholar to set up alerts for certain tops and also set up my Feedly in a more organized manner. I had time to work with Diigo and explore more behind groups and also best ways to tag and organize for future use. I need to keep tweaking my organization tagging to make it more efficient for me as the user; this will help save so much time to get my personal and shared bookmarked resources readily accessible.

Which artifact do you feel was your best and why?

In choosing to be a student at Boise State and undertake the MET program, I committed to a field of study I have a lot of interest and investment in. Each assignment held meaning for me, and I worked on each to gain knowledge and grow as an educational technologist. I appreciated that our professor encouraged us to tailor our research and topic curation toward our work situation and location.

I am very proud of the work on did on my School Evaluation Summary. This task enabled me to really evaluate my school from many angles and hone in on areas of strength and weakness. I look forward to working with the leadership team at my school to use this to develop a technology usage plan. In my other summer course, I was able to develop a Social Media Policy. These two artifacts will assist me as I look to move our school into a formal and thoughtful plan. I am excited to get the conversation started with my team. My school site is fortunate in a lot of ways, with a committed staff, bilingual focus, new renovations and technology – with the work I did this summer I feel this can help to move us forward to create an intelligently integrated school.